Design of a Rich-Prospect Browsing Interface for Seniors

Stan Ruecker, L M Given, Elizabeth Sadler, Andrea Ruskin, Heather Simpson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper examines inclusive design delivery through interface design, with a particular focus on access to healthcare resources for seniors. The goal of the project was to examine how seniors are able to access drug information using two different online systems. In the existing retrieval system, pills are identified using a standard search interface. In the new browsing prototype, all of the pill images appear on a single screen, where the user identifies images by clustering the pills displayed by choosing similarity criteria related to the database search terms (e.g., all white pills or all pills of a certain size). The feedback mechanism in this interface involves re-organization of the pill images that are already visible to the user. We used a qualitative, task-based verbal analysis protocol with 12 participants aged 65 and older who were asked to locate pill images in each database and to discuss their preferences for navigation, aesthetics, and the results that appear on the screen. By assessing the features of both interfaces, the results suggest possible models that could be applied in meeting seniors' information retrieval needs. "As the general population ages (and as life expectancy rates increase), seniors are increasingly faced with complicated medical regimes". Sorting pills, to ensure that certain medications are taken at particular times of the day with or without meals, can be a daunting task for many patients, yet this task is a vital part of personal health management. As individuals age, visual and/or motor impairments make sorting, holding and identifying pills a challenge. Designing effective reference materials--including websites--can aid in patients' and caregivers' awareness and recognition of the range of available medications and help them to locate valuable drug information (e.g., side effects). This project was designed to explore the viability of a prototype, a visually based interface that would meet seniors' specific searching and retrieval needs. This empirical study addresses a theoretical issue raised by Ruecker and Chow (2003), which called for further research into the use of browsing strategies in interfaces for seniors accessing health information of various kinds. Qualitative interviews were used to explore participants' general information searching strategies, and computer tasks (employing a verbal analysis protocol) were used to assess two interfaces--including a prototype that was designed to bridge the physical (e.g., vision-related) and cognitive/emotional (e.g., issues of trust related to health information) needs of older adults. The goal of this project was to see if an alternative visual browsing interface, showing photographs of 1000 pills, could be useful for seniors interested in pill identification. Usefulness in this case involved a number of factors, ranging from the basic question of whether 1000 photos would simply be overwhelming, to concerns about the best methods for providing tools to manipulate the display, down to detailed questions about specific design choices relating to contrast, legibility and control size. The images could be magnified and also clustered by participants based on similarity in two visual dimensions: color and shape. (Contains 5 figures.)
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationVisible Language
Number of pages1
StatePublished - 2007

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